Food & Drink

Wine tasting in paradise

Reporter Nicole Smith and a golden retriever from Stacked Stone Cellars.
Reporter Nicole Smith and a golden retriever from Stacked Stone Cellars. By Christopher Smith

My husband and I recently purchased our first home in Paso Robles and were equally excited to live in the Paso wine region.

Using only our new locale as a guide, we discovered Peachy Canyon Road and its inviting wineries to be just a few miles away. So dodging rain one recent day, we set out on a five-mile jaunt to get us to our first stop, Stacked Stone Cellars.

I immediately noticed the beautiful and secluded oak-covered area before being ushered to the tasting room/winemaking facility by the two resident golden retrievers. There, owner and winemaker Donald Thiessen let us sample his exclusively red wines in three styles: Bordeaux, Rhône and zinfandel.

Thiessen informed us that his terraced vineyards on the surrounding hills are head pruned and dry farmed, producing low-yield fruit with vivid flavor. He also practices whole berry fermentation, which means a longer fermentation time for the wine in the tanks, but intense berry flavor.

We enjoyed the 2006 Gem, a Rhône-style blend with well-balanced notes, and planned to return in the summer to enjoy a concert at the winery’s outdoor amphitheater.

A couple of miles down the winding road, we stopped at Calcareous Vineyard, situated at the top of a hill. Calcareous means limestone in Latin, and the wine facility boasts an expansive view and plenty of space for a picnic with friends.

Winery dogs turned out to be the theme of the day when a happy chocolate Labrador greeted us at the door, determined to convince us that, despite the mud, we wanted to play fetch.

Calcareous is located on 442 rolling acres, but only 30 of them are planted so far, leaving room for expansion by the two owners, who are sisters (or as their label affectionately refers to them, the “twisted sisters”). My two favorites were the 2008 marsanne, a self-proclaimed fireside winter white that was sweet and crisp, and the 2006 Twisted Sisters Meritage, a delicious, spicy Bordeaux blend.

My only complaint was that they did not waive our tasting fee with the purchase of a bottle, making for a pricier experience than other wineries.

Our final stop of the day was small Minassian-Young Vineyards. Opened in 2005, the location used to be home to Peachy Canyon Vineyards before the current owners, David and Amparo Young, purchased the property. We found the wines to be reasonably priced and easy to drink.I enjoyed the semi-sweet, no oak 2008 White Rhônoceros, a blend of marsanne, roussane and viognier, and well-priced at $15 a bottle.

Here, we also discovered our two favorite zinfandels of the day. The first was the 2007 Bailey Vineyard zinfandel that had a fruity, less spicy flavor and the 2007 Black St. Peter, its estate wine and a zinfandel blend. Like Stacked Stone Cellars, the Youngs also head prune their vineyards, resulting in some great flavors.

In keeping with the impromptu theme of the day, winery dog Finn led us out to our car as we prepared to head home, a pleasant short drive away.

Highway 46 West is peppered with more than 80 wineries, and looking over the map as we headed home, I realized that we had a lot of “work” ahead of us in the coming weeks to meet all of our new winery neighbors.